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Panic buying spree in HCMC after social distancing order

By Quynh Tran, Huu Khoa, Le Phuong   May 30, 2021 | 06:55 am PT
Despite officials’ assurances of no food shortage, many HCMC residents flocked to supermarkets for stocking up supplies following a two-week social distancing order.
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Hundreds queue up in front of the Emart supermarket in Go Vap District.
During an emergency meeting Sunday noon on Covid-19, Chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong imposed two-week social distancing for the whole city with Directive 15, while Go Vap District and District 12's Thanh Loc Ward adhere to Directive 16 starting Monday. Directive 15 requires suspension of social events, bans gatherings of 20 people or more in one place and of 10 people or more outside workplaces, schools and hospitals. A minimum distance of two meters between people in public places should be ensured. Directive 16 imposes stricter measures. It does not allow gatherings of more than two people in public and asks people to only leave home for emergencies, buying food and medicine, and working in factories, production facilities and businesses that involve "essential" goods and services.
City officials urged people not to panic and not to rush to shop since it can be dangerous when crowds of people don't keep a safe distance from each other.

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Every aisle in the supermarket was packed, despite authorities pleas for caution. Frozen food and fruit were "sold out" in quick time. This is the second time that HCMC is implementing a two-week socially distancing measure city-wide, the first being in April last year.

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Van, a Go Vap District resident, said: "The supermarket is often crowded during the weekend. I got here very early, but many people were already hoarding food items. Since the Covid-19 situation is complicated and city has urged residents to limit going out, I am grabbing some extra instant noodles for my kids."

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The pork shelves are empty. Supermarket staff were trying to re-stock whatever shelves they could.

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Tran Huu Yen Phuong, a Binh Thanh District resident, sat down on the floor as she waited her turn to pay.

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At the Mega Market supermarket on Hanoi Highway, long queues of people waited outside at 1 p.m.
Tran Kim Nga, external relations director of the supermarket, said: "To avoid crowds, we have installed barriers and are only allowing a small number of customers to enter at once. They are all required to wear masks, have their body temperature checked, and sanitize their hands."

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In the 10,000-meter-square supermarket, 250 customers were allowed to enter at one time.

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All 26 counters at the supermarkets were busy serving customers with carts laden with food and other supplies. Most of them maintained social distancing, standing in marked locations.
"We will open normally for the next few days to meet people’s demands. Today, our staff will work until there is no customer left to serve. But we recommend that people shop online or via phones to comply with Covid-19 prevention measures," said Nga.

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My Tien loads bread, vegetables, dried food, rice and other items on to the counter before paying for them.
"I thought I am the only one stocking up, and did not expect that the supermarket would be so crowded. It took me more than two hours to buy enough food for 10 days."

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Six kilometers away, the Co.opmart outlet in Thu Duc roundabout witnessed a rush Sunday afternoon.

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Consumers focused on stockpiling dried food, vegetables, fruits, meat and fish.
Nguyen Anh Duc, director of the Saigon Co.op supermarket chain, said there would be no food shortage because their warehouses in southern Binh Duong Province have already stocked up on food, which will be delivered to HCMC as soon as possible.
"We are open until 10 p.m., and if people want to buy essentials, we will open until 11 p.m. or midnight," he said, adding those living in areas under Directive 16 in Go Vap and District 12 will have goods delivered to their houses.

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Supermarket employees unload fresh cucumbers to restock its shelves.
Bui Ta Hoang Vu, director of the HCM City Department of Industry and Trade, said supermarkets and stores in the city are opening at full capacity to meet locals’ demands. He advised, however, that people should go home if they see crowds inside a supermarkets,
"They can come back on the following day because food supplies are always available, and it will be helpful in the Covid-19 fight."
Since April 27, the city has recorded a total of 157 infections.

 
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